Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review: The Little Brute Family by Russell Hoban

This was one of my family's all-time favorite books when I was a kid. For a long, long time I was very shocked and depressed that it was out of print (but it's by the Hobans! The authors of the Francis books!) but in 2002 it came back to life, yay!

On the one hand, this is a heavy-handed message book: If you are polite and cheerful, as opposed to miserable and angry, you're likely to be happy. But this message is conveyed with such honesty and the Brutes are so charismatic that the message goes down with a spoonful of sugar. At first you don't really blame them for being so unhappy - after all their sand and gravel porridge was admittedly "not delicious" and their heavy kites don't fly and if my crooked sled crashed and flung me headfirst into a snowbank, I'd probably scream too. Thank goodness for Baby Brute! He spotted the little wandering lost good feeling and brought it home. It's amazing what a difference a little "thank you" can do. In Lillian Hoban's wonderful illustrations you can see the look of shock - nay, horror, on Mama Brute's face to hear those words come out of her baby's mouth! It seems like such a novel idea to try eating honey and berries and greens for dinner instead of sticks and stones, and to sing songs around the fire instead of sinking in the pond.

I'm not sure what kinds of critter the Brutes are, but they have such expressive faces. I especially like Papa's three teeth, and Sister does look a bit like Frances, especially in her shy, sweet smile. Their bird feet are absurd and their enormous black noses are hilarious. I love, love, love The Little Brute Family. No children's collection is complete without it.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.


Julie P. said...

Sounds like a very sweet book! I could totally tell it was the same people that wrote the Frances books!

avisannschild said...

Thanks for mentioning this post in your Frances review; I would have missed it otherwise! I haven't read anything else by the Hobans other than the Frances books, but this one looks like fun too.